US far-right leaders ordered to pay $25M for deadly 2017 rally

Mixed verdict in Unite the Right trial

Andrew John Roesgen   | 24.11.2021
US far-right leaders ordered to pay $25M for deadly 2017 rally Police, medical personnel, and other protestors attend to the injured people after a car rammed into a crowd of anti-White Supremacy protestors in Charlottesville, Va., USA on August 12, 2017. ( Samuel Corum - Anadolu Agency )

CHICAGO, United States 

A jury awarded just over $25 million in civil damages Tuesday to victims of a deadly US far-right rally in 2017. 

The verdict was mixed. The jury in Charlottesville, Virginia, decided that those who organized the Unite the Right rally in August 2017 violated the state’s conspiracy laws -- three of the six counts -- but the group could not reach agreement on three other counts involving federal laws.

The 24 defendants and organizations helped bring together hundreds of Neo-Nazis, anti-Semites and white nationalists from around the country to a park in Charlottesville where the city planned to remove a statue of a Confederate war general, Robert E. Lee.

Scenes from the weekend horrified much of America, as marchers carried tiki torches chanting, "Jews will not replace us!" and displayed imagery from the Ku Klux Klan and Nazi Germany.

Fights broke out between rally-goers and counter-demonstrators, and eventually an avowed admirer of Adolf Hitler drove his car into a crowd, killing Heather Heyer, 32, and injuring 19 others.

As part of the civil damages, the driver, James Fields Jr. from the state of Ohio, was ordered to pay $12 million. He is serving a life sentence and it is not clear how he or others are going to pay the damages.

The lawsuit was filed by nine people who claimed they were physically and mentally hurt by the rally and said organizers planned the rally knowing that it would lead to violence.

The defendants included some of the US’ most prominent white nationalists, including Richard Spencer and Nathan Domigo, who founded Group Identity Evropa.

During the trial, rally organizers tried to distance themselves from Fields and said in some cases, they only resorted to violence when others in their group were attacked.

After the rally, then-President Trump faced a wave of criticism, even among those in his party, when he was asked about the violence and said, in a now-infamous remark, that there were "very fine people" on both sides in Charlottesville.

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